Observations on life; particularly spiritual

What does the New Testament say about the Sabbath?

Sabbath vs Lord's DayI have received the following comment about a post on whether Christians should gather together on the Sabbath day.

I am so disturbed to learn that we as Christians have decided that the Sabbath which was commanded by God can be dealt away with. There is nowhere in scripture we are told to change that. In face Jesus says if you love me follow my commandments. There was no new commandment set by Jesus to abandon the sabbath. He said I came to do my fathers will. Sunday worship comes from Rome and the worship of Roman gods. The same goes for Christmas and Easter. All these are pagan celebrations which has infiltrated the church. The true Christians under Paul and Peter never celebrated anything besides preaching on the Sabath. In the book of Revelation, John declares he saw seven golden candle sticks, a symbol from the old testament and Christ was in the midst of this. The God, Yahweh has never changed and will never changed. His laws remains the same till the end of time. I truly believe its satan worship if we tell Christains to worship on Sunday’s and don’t follow the laws of God. That’s against everything God stands for, if you love me keep my commandments. Which commandments? We still obey the laws because we Gentiles are the spiritual Israelites, but our path way salvation is Christ not just obeying the Law. I dont understand why anyone will teach this to the Christian world that you can disobey the Creator because of what man has decided it’s the new religion. Wake up and come out of Babylon, we are called by God and not by man. There if God says 7th day is the week is the day of worship, nothing changes because Yahweh doesn’t change. The first day of the week is the worship of the Sun God, do some research and you will know Constantine started this with the Roman Church. You cannot change God’s Law or command. Jesus said I came to fulfill, not to change. Jesus said I came to do my fathers will. So there is no where Sunday worship was instituted and declared the Holy Day of the Lord. Brother George ask the Holy Spirit for deep teaching and insight so you don’t deceive his children. Shalom

This post is based on a survey of the instances when the Sabbath day (7th day of the week) is mentioned in the New Testament between Acts and Revelation inclusive. These are the books of the Bible that apply to the Christian church, which began on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). In the previous books of the Bible (Exodus to John), the Israelites (or Jews) are God’s special people on earth who are commanded to obey the Mosaic law (which included animal sacrifices, male circumcision and keeping the Sabbath). Because there is no Jewish temple (with altars for sacrifices) or priesthood, today it is impossible to practice the Mosaic covenant as it was followed in the Old Testament.

We will see that the model given in Scripture for the early church was for Sunday observance, which was different to the Jewish practice of Sabbath observance.

In this post we look at whether the instances of Sabbath day observance between Acts and Revelation are a command, a model to follow or merely a report of events. Instances of Sunday (1st day of the week) observance will be considered in the same way so the two can be compared.

Is Sabbath day observance a command, a model or a report?

The contents of the Bible can be divided into commands, models to follow and reports of events. A command is mandatory (not optional) and prescriptive (not descriptive). A model to follow is a practice that is described that is worth following today. Whereas, a report is a description of events (like in the news media) that is not worth following today.

Sabbath observance commanded

I am not aware of any command to observe the Sabbath day between Acts and Revelation in the Bible. It is interesting to note that the other nine of the ten commandments given to Moses are repeated as commandments for Christians in this portion of Scripture, but the 4th commandment isn’t. Also, when they joined the early church which was largely Jewish, the Gentile Christians weren’t commanded to keep the Sabbath (Acts 15:19-20). Furthermore, Sabbath breaking is never mentioned as a sin in this portion of the Bible.

But if Sabbath observance isn’t commanded for the church, is it modelled?

Sabbath observance modelled

During his first missionary journey, Paul preached in the Jewish synagogue at Pisidian Antioch on two Sabbath days (Acts 13:14-49), but the message was rejected by the Jews. Then Paul preached to the Gentiles and they accepted the message. Paul and Barnabas left this town when they were expelled by the Jewish leaders (Acts 13:50-51).

During his second missionary journey, at Philippi Paul went outside the city gate to the river on the Sabbath day, where he expected to find a place of prayer (Acts 16:13-15). Paul must have preached there because Lydia responded to his message. But Paul and Silas had to leave this town after they were imprisoned. According to the NIV Study Bible, there were so few Jews in Philippi that there was no synagogue (ten married men were required), so the Jews who were there met for prayer along the banks of the Pangites river. It was customary for such places of prayer to be located outdoors near running water.

Next Paul visited Thessalonica where: “As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,’ he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women” (Acts 17:2-4). After this the Jewish leaders forced them to leave the city.

When Paul visited Corinth during his second missionary journey “Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah” (Acts 18:4-5NIV). But when the Jews opposed him and became abusive, Paul went next door and preached to the Gentiles.

So on his missionary trips Paul had a custom of visiting synagogues on the Sabbath. Why did he do this? What did he do there? From the four accounts summarized above we see that he preached that Jesus Christ was the Jewish Messiah that was promised in the Old Testament. Paul kept on doing this until he was forced to leave because of Jewish opposition. Then he preached to the Gentiles. So the purpose of this custom was to preach the message about Jesus to the Jews because they knew about the Old Testament. Paul only went to the synagogue on the Sabbath because there was an audience there for his message.

What is the example for us to follow? It is about preaching about Jesus whenever there is an opportunity and not about observing the Jewish Sabbath day. The other main occurrence of preaching to the Jews was Peter’s address on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-41). This was on a Sunday because the day of Pentecost was the 50th day after the after the Sabbath of Passover week (Lev. 23:15-16). So the apostles preached whenever the Jews were gathered together, whether it was on the Sabbath or on Sunday. The day of the week they preached wasn’t important to them.

Furthermore, there is no evidence that the early church met on the Sabbath. The meetings that Paul attended on the Sabbath during his missionary journeys were meetings of Jews held in a synagogue.

But if Sabbath observance isn’t commanded or modelled for the church, is it reported?

Sabbath observance reported

I am not aware of any other verses between Acts and Revelation in the Bible that are related to observance of the Sabbath day. The only other occasions the Sabbath is mentioned are in Colossians and Hebrews.

Paul prohibits Christians being condemned for not following particular food or drink regulations and for not observing particular religious activities that are held on an annual, monthly or weekly basis: “Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (Col. 2:16-17NIV). The examples given in this passage are arranged in the order of annual, monthly, and weekly. From Numbers 28:9-25 it is clear that the religious festivals were the annual Jewish festivals (such as the Passover), the New Moon celebration was the monthly Jewish offering, and the Sabbath day was the weekly Jewish Sabbath. As Christ has come, there is no value in keeping these things that foreshadowed His coming. Observance of these holy days is no longer required. Today we celebrate the reality, not the shadows.

Also, the “Sabbath-rest” in Hebrews 4:1-11, is different to the Sabbath day. This is the spiritual rest of salvation through faith in Christ (Heb. 11:2-3) that is likened to the physical rest of the Sabbath. Christians rest in the completed work of Christ (Mt. 11:28-30).

How does this compare with what the New Testament says about Sunday observance?

Is Sunday observance a command, a model or a report?

Sunday observance commanded

I am not aware of any command to observe Sunday (the 1st day of the week) between Acts and Revelation in the Bible.

But if Sunday observance isn’t commanded for the church, is it modelled?

Sunday observance modelled

When they visited Troas during Paul’s third missionary journey, Luke reported “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight” (Acts 20:7). In the previous verse it says that they stayed in Troas for seven days. Although he was in a hurry to travel to Jerusalem over the next month Paul seems to have waited until he could meet with the local church when they celebrated the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week (Acts 20:6, 16). This is the most likely meaning of the saying “we came together to break bread”. It didn’t mean an ordinary meal, because they would have had these during the rest of the week and because Paul preached and taught as well. The Lord’s Supper and the apostles’ teaching, which are mentioned on this occasion, were two of the corporate activities of the early church (Acts 2:42). Therefore, the statement in the comment that “The true Christians under Paul and Peter never celebrated anything besides preaching on the Sabbath” is false.

Was this an unusual farewell meeting, and not necessarily indicative of normal practice? The fact that Paul spoke to midnight was probably unusual as the reason given for this is “because he intended to leave the next day”. But there is nothing in the passage to indicate that their celebration of the Lord’s supper was unusual or that Paul speaking after this celebration was unusual. In fact the prime reason given for meeting together on Sunday was to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. There is a spiritual connection between the Lord’s supper and Sunday – the former symbolizes Christ’s death and the latter His resurrection.

So it seems as though it was the practice of the early Christians to gather together on the first day of the week in order to observe the Lord’s Supper and carry out other corporate activities.

When Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth he urged them to support needy believers in Jerusalem, “Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made” (1 Cor. 16:1-2).

Paul doesn’t say exactly how this money is collected, “set aside” or saved up. The Greek noun translated “collection” (Strongs #3048) only occurs I these two verses and none other in the Bible. According to Thayer’s Greek Lexion, in this context it means “money collected for the poor”. The passage seems to promote systematic giving. There was to be a collection each week so that the amount could accumulate over time and there would be no need for a collection when Paul came. So it was a corporate collection, not one done individually (if it was individual, there would need to be a collection when Paul came). If Paul wanted the collection to be done “at home” he could have included this phase as in 1 Corinthians 11:34; 14:35. This means that the finances of the early church were centralized as they were amongst the apostles when Jesus was on earth (Jn. 12:6; 13:29). So it seems as though it was the practice of the early Christians when they gathered together on the first day of the week to collect money from each other to support the needy.

Although Sunday observance is modelled for the church, is it reported elsewhere?

Sunday observance reported

I am not aware of any other verses between Acts and Revelation in the Bible that are related to Sunday observance. The only other possible mention of the first day of the week was when John said he saw a vision of Christ “on the Lord’s Day” (Rev. 1:10). The only other occurrence of this Greek adjective (Strongs #2960) in Scripture is a reference to the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:20). According to the NIV Study Bible, “The Lord’s Day” is a technical term for the first day of the week because Jesus rose from the dead on that day. It could indicate that John and the early church treated Sunday in a special way among all days.

Some think that Romans 14:5-6 addresses Sabbath or Sunday observance, but there is no evidence of this from the context of this passage.

Sabbath observance and Sunday observance compared

We have seen that the Greek noun for Sabbath (Strongs #4521) is associated with Paul preaching in the synagogue. It’s an example of Paul adapting to the customs of the Jews in order to win them to the Lord. “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law” (1 Cor. 9:19-20).

On the other hand, the phrase “the first day of the week” (Strong’s #1520 and #4521) is associated with gathering together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7). This phrase is also linked in the gospels with Christ’s resurrection (Mt. 28:1; Mk. 16:2; Lk.24:1; Jn. 20:1). So the resurrection of Christ seems to be the reason why the early church met on Sunday and this practice has continued down through the ages. Of course Christians can meet on other days of the week as the Bible doesn’t prohibit this. But there is no spiritual connection between the Lord’s supper (and His resurrection) and the Sabbath day.

I am not aware of any command given between Acts and Revelation in the Bible to the early church to observe either the Sabbath day or Sunday. There is no biblical command that either Saturday or Sunday be a day of worship.

It seems as though it was the practice of the early Christians to gather together on the first day of the week in order to observe the Lord’s Supper and to carry out other corporate activities including collecting money from each other to support the needy. But it’s not a day of rest or a holy day like the Sabbath was for the Jews. The only Christian practice in the Bible that’s related to the Sabbath is preaching about Jesus whenever there is an opportunity. As one of the opportunities was when Jews gathered on the Sabbath, that was when Paul preached (until he was rejected by the Jewish leaders). There is no model to follow for the church to meet on the Sabbath. It was only the Jews who held their services on the Sabbath.


A study of the portion of the Bible written about and to the early church (Acts to Revelation, inclusive) shows evidence for Sunday observance of the Lord’s supper and other corporate activities by Christians, but there is no evidence of Sabbath observance.

So the model given in Scripture for the early church was for Sunday observance, which was different to the Jewish practice of Sabbath observance.

Written, September 2015

Also see: What about keeping the Sabbath day?
I’ve been told that Christians should keep the ten commandments as they were God’s law and not the law of Moses. Is this true?
I went to a church service that was held on Saturday instead of Sunday and was told that was when we should worship God what does the Bible say about this topic?
The Sabbath day difference between Jesus and Paul
Why the new covenant is better
Is insistence on Sabbath-keeping legalism?

6 responses

  1. 1 Corinthians 11:26: a more advisable way to look at this scripture is to include vs 23-26. In vs 23 “same night” indicates a one time event. At the time of The Passover as recorded originally Exodus 12:14 and ratified in Leviticus 23:1-5. Also the fourth Commandment of the Ten Commandments states “remember to keep the Sabbath day holy. If we consider Sunday our Sabbath we do not keep the whole of Sunday holy. For a in depth understanding of all these matters go to the website cited below and may God be with you.

    October 19, 2017 at 8:04 am

    • Thanks for the comment Howard.

      Paul begins the passage of 1 Corinthians 11:23-34 with “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you” (v.23). This means that Paul either received this message directly as a revelation from Jesus Christ, or it was passed on to him by others who had heard it from Jesus (1 Cor. 7:10; 15:3).

      1 Cor. 11:23-25 describes a one-time event, which was when Jesus Christ instituted the Lord’s supper when He celebrated the Passover with His disciples before His crucifixion (Mt. 26:26-29; Mk. 14:22-25; Lk. 22:17-20). So, it doesn’t refer to the one-time event of the institution of the Hebrew Passover which happened about 1,500 years earlier. Christ instituted the Lord’s supper with His disciples who became the leaders of the early church. So, it’s something that’s relevant to the church, not something that’s Jewish.

      Then Paul says, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). Here he is saying that that the Lord’s supper is a periodic event, and not a one-time event. Then in v.27-34, Paul corrects the Corinthians practice of the Lord’s supper. They were not to do it in an “unworthy manner”. They were to “examine themselves” beforehand. And they were to “all eat together” and not in private groups (v. 20-21, 33). If it was a one-time event in the life of Jesus (or at the institution of the Passover), why did Paul correct the Corinthian practice? God obviously approved of the periodic practice, but not how they were doing it. So, when you look at the context of a verse in the Bible, it’s important to look at the verses that follow it as well as those that precede it.

      I have already written about the fourth commandment. This instruction is not mentioned in Acts to Revelation, and Christians shouldn’t be condemned for failing to keep it (Col. 2:16).

      You say, “If we consider Sunday our Sabbath we do not keep the whole of Sunday holy”. As the Bible doesn’t require us to keep the fourth commandment today, there is no requirement to apply this commandment to Sunday.

      October 30, 2017 at 5:58 am

  2. Alicia

    Why would they mention this if the gentiles were not hearing the law preached every Sabbath?
    Acts 15:21
    21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”
    Acts 13:42
    Acts 18:4
    Luke 4:16
    All these scripture and more are about Yahshua and His disciples observing Sabbath.
    So how can u say there is no mention of it being observed by gentiles and Jews.
    Mark 2:27
    The Sabbath was made for man,
    not man for the Sabbath…..
    Right there Yahshua says it was made for man not just the Jews.
    No where in scripture does Yahweh change His day of rest.
    It is man’s tradition that did that!
    Matthew 5:17
    Oh and actions speak louder than words so look at what Yahshua did.
    He went to the synagogues every Sabbath!
    So did His disciples after He died and was resurrected.
    Paul said imitate me as I imitate Christ….
    1 Corinthians 11: 1
    In acts 18:4 and acts 17:2
    He was at the synagogue on the Sabbath.
    Praise Yahshua for truth!

    March 4, 2018 at 7:43 am

    • Alicia

      Oh and Him saying He was the Lord of the Sabbath is also indication that He had no intention of abolishing it in favour of another day.
      Matthew 12:8
      For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.

      Plus it is a type and shadow of Christ.
      If you throw out the Sabbath you throw out the One it reflects right?!
      Colossians 2:17
      Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

      In fact some of the things these days reflect haven’t even occurred yet according to this verse.
      It says which are a shadow of things to come…
      Read also
      Hebrews 4:9-11 New King James Version (NKJV)
      9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.

      11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.
      No where does it say the Sabbath has been done away with.
      If you can find a scripture that says it’s been abolished maybe someone would be inclined to believe you.
      But I can tell you from Genesis to Revelations there is no such scripture.
      If you can’t prove it with scriptures it isn’t the truth!
      Praise Yahshua for truth!
      Acts 25:8 more proof Paul was obedient to the law of Yahweh.
      Paul would not have been able to say this if he had not been observing the Sabbath!

      March 4, 2018 at 8:01 am

    • Thanks for your comments on 4 March 2018 Alicia.

      With regard to the first comment, unfortunately, you don’t seem to have understood the blogpost. It’s important to read the Bible in context. I can see four errors in your comment:
      1. You refer to, “For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath” (Acts 15:21) and claim that this means that the Gentiles were hearing the law preached at synagogues every Sabbath. But this verse is addressing Jews and not Gentiles! The law of Moses and synagogue attendance was a part of Jewish culture. The Gentiles weren’t attending the synagogues on every Sabbath – it wasn’t a part of their culture.
      2. The verses from Matthew, Mark and Luke refer to the time before the church commenced on the day of Pentecost. So they are irrelevant as to whether the church should meet on Saturday or Sunday today. Jesus never attended a Christian church, but He did attend Jewish synagogues.
      3. The verses quoted in Acts (Acts 13:42; 17:2; 18:4) were instances when apostles preached to Jews in synagogues. The apostles didn’t go to synagogues on every Sabbath to gather together as a church and praise God, but they went sometimes for the purpose of evangelism to Jewish unbelievers. But when they were unable to evangelize at the synagogue, they no longer went there on the Sabbath.
      4. When He was a Christian, Paul wouldn’t have imitated what Jesus did as a Jew living under the law of Moses. For example, as a Jew living under the old covenant, Jesus would have made offerings at the Jewish temple and kept the Jewish Festivals and Sabbath. But although Paul was still a Jew, after he converted to Christianity he lived under the new covenant (which is different to the old covenant). This meant that he didn’t have to obey all the laws of Moses and so he no longer made offerings at the Jewish temple and no longer kept the laws relating to the Jewish Festivals and Sabbath.

      December 16, 2018 at 8:53 pm

  3. Stanley

    Brother, you said a lot of good things but the Gentiles are not the spiritual Israelites. The Jewish people are the physical and spiritual Israelites, God’s chosen people. We, as Gentiles are grafted into that tree. I’m sure you’re a good man but I do not understand why certain people want to try to spread the same message that the KKK tries to spread

    October 16, 2018 at 5:07 pm

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